I’m oldschool. Whether or not that is a good thing is debatable, but I still believe in loyalty, trust, to help others, and to love thy neighbour as thyself. I also love the good old days, when racing was fun, politics was reserved for political parties, and cars were modified using no computers. I also believe that cars had personalities, and soul. These days, not many do. One such car is Zain Ryland’s Sierra.

I first met Zain light years ago when, while purchasing my very first nitrous kit, he gave me advice. At the time, nitrous was unheard of, and only a handful of people used it. He explained to me the differences between a wet kit and a dry kit, which I was buying. I can clearly remember the guy who sold it tell me “Do you know that guy? He’s the NOS guru with the V8 Ford”. At the time it was a Sapphire.

Much later, around 2006, Zain was seen with a boosted Sierra XR8. The car was originally from the land of XR8’s (Durbs of course laanie), and when Zain acquired it, it needed much tidying up. It was an original XR8 though, and Zain is one of the original Ford koppe, so it was a match made in, well, that place where the car is now.

The car went through a number of metamorphosis, and lots of changes and improvements were made, none of which detracted from the originality of the XR8. I’ve always amazed myself at Zain and the car. Although it was road legal, it couldn’t exactly be deemed a daily, and it only saw the strip a few times a year. Top end events were few and far between, so how did he enjoy the car if it wasn’t driven often? Chatting to him the other day, he said the one thing he’ll miss is the “aspect” of the car. If you don’t understand, allow me to explain. I have a similar relationship with my Mazda. The car is your companion, it is your solace, it is an extension of who you are. You may never drive it, but working on it is almost always much more satisfying. I’m sure he even spoke to the car when nobody was watching.

As top end events grew more popular, so did the twin-turbo V8 Sierra. At Saldanha Drags in particular, the car was a crowd favourite, and became a bit of a Cape Town legend. Together with Zain, the car holds the most Saldanha Drags podium finishes, with a fastest speed of 288kmh over 800m, and 297kmh on the kilo. The car somehow always has issues which is very relatable, considering it had a personality and soul of its own.

Zain rarely considered quarter-mile racing as Cape Town doesn’t have an ideal drag strip for a car of this nature. Also, if you know anything about racing, you’d know lighter is better, and he wasn’t going to cut up an original sought-after collector car. Even though he is a speed demon, he always knew it was sacrilege to sacrifice heritage for speed.

After many achievements on the top end racing scene, late last year he made his first attempt at a 400m run. Although it was a test run to check the safety and braking ability of the car, he managed a 10 second run. The car performed well, and it appeared to be safe too.  As I’ve mentioned before, Zain has been around for ages, and knew that the car wasn’t going to go much quicker in its full-bodied guise, it was still very much a street car, and he was okay with that. To quote him: “It doesn’t matter how much more power the car made, it would still have hovered around the 10 second mark. This past Saturday, he didn’t have much aspirations of upping the power, but was wanting to get used to piloting the monster over 400 metres.

After a blistering run of 10.3 seconds , somehow something went wrong and while many people are speculating as to what had happened, from dust on the track, to Killarney’s braking distance , to brake failure, the fact is that the legendary Sierra crashed badly, and succumbed to its wounds. It is a bittersweet moment for many, as the racing community is extremely grateful that Zain, one of the nicest guys in racing, was unharmed, but that a car with so much heritage, so much soul, and so much popularity is no more.  On the plus side though, Zain now has in his possession a few trick bits that wasn’t fitted yet, looking for a home. He also says the heart of the beast seems to be okay….

Whatever his plans for the future are, one thing is certain, the XR8TT will always be remembered for what it was- a true Cape Town legend.

Keep doing burnouts in the sky, old fella.